Friday, May 29, 2009

Into the Light

The light from the roof was so nice, I couldn't resist a photograph. It's not always so easy, too much light - and a shot can look a little bland or overexposed. The minimal decor here is attractive though. Designers resisted the temptation to put too much in the space. The banners make a nice touch of colour and the single tree pops out in green. There's even someone hiding behind it. Let there be light says the Bible, thus bringing order out of chaos. And the Taoists ultimately believe the immortal body is composed entirely of light. Although light is generally associated with life, happiness and of course ascension, we must always remember that where there is light there is shadow. Psychoanalysts generally feel that light signals personality development whereas darkness speaks of anxiety and depression. The travellers are headed into the darkness of the booking hall, but they are going to emerge again into the light (which is exactly the place depicted in yesterday's blog!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Renovation at Brussels Central rail station means it has a lot of interior natural light. I left the photograph in its entirety, so that the roof could be appreciated. As you come up the stairs from the booking office, the departure board is right in front of travellers. It makes a real statement about departures. The railway timetable is set in stone and is unalterable. Even if the train is late or has been cancelled, its name is still its departure time - the 10.30 from Brussels Central is always the 10.30 from Brussels Central - even if reaches Ghent, 5 minutes late. If you dream of a railway timetable, you may be staring at the rigid order of life. There could be something you have to accommodate in your life - because there is a limited range of destinations in the railway network - it's a set pattern. But it may also be the start of some development in the psyche. We begin at the departure board and choose a destination we feel is most suited to us. If we dream about railway departures, the unconscious is working on the self. Of course, we might feel that things are moving in all directions and we wonder where to go. But the journey is about development - even if we feel powerless to find the correct route.

Big Bell

This is a big cow bell! - a very traditional touch at the farmer's campaign to the EU on the 25th of May. This is in Brussels, just in front of the Berlaymont building just to the side of the Schuman roundabout. There was a nice touch at this protest, because before the marchers arrived, some workmen were laying out new plants in the flower bed. By the end of the working day they were finished. Did the campaigning farmers walk on the prepared flower beds? Certainly not! In symbolic terms, bells are very particular. Regarded as making heavenly sounds, they do take on the meaning of the purpose to which they are put. So these bells call for a particular action - bringing the cows in. For the ancient Germans, the milch cow, Audumla was the first companion of Ymer the first giant. Both were born from melting ice. In this creation myth, they are the ancestors of all living things. As the symbol of fertility, they precede the Gods themselves. Calling the cows is an important business and the bells are a call to action at the symbolic level, to defend the milk and those who produce it. My enormous thanks to Sylvaine who alerted me to this interesting event.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fair Price

The farmers are asking for a fair price for their milk. They want to know why people - consumers - will except such a low price for something that is regarded as a special and valuable food. My father was always saying to me that life wasn't fair. He was trying to alert me to a basic unfairness that always seems to exist - parents do this to encourage children to be realistic. That doesn't mean things have to be accepted quietly though! The farmers here are making the point that milk is being traded for less than it's value. Many farmers are being paid less than 20 cent for a litre of milk. Milk, like bread, seems to have lost the symbolic force it once possessed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's all about the Milk

The dairy farmers' campaign in Brussels was most colourful - and noisy. No real cows alas, but many of these life size models above together with many, many tractors. Farmers gathered mostly from Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and further afield to protest that they are receiving little of the money paid to supermarkets for milk. Why would you pay less for Cola than you would for milk? asks the European Milk Board, which represents dairy farmers at EU level. A fair question. The cow is a key symbol of mother and fertility, but the colour of the cow is extremely important when it's displayed. Here the cow is red - bright red is the red of flags and posters. It heartens, encourages and mobilises with its call to action. This is the cow of war, demanding a decent price for its work. When we drink milk, we transfer its powers to ourselves - health, healing and knowledge. Indeed. it is said that to dream of drinking milk is to dream of both learning and knowledge.

Line Up

In Brussels, I was lucky enough to be around for the dairy farmers' campaign at the EC building. It was genial enough, but the authorities were taking no chances. Police lines were assembled. Water cannon trucks arrived and gas masks were handed out. I was taking a shot of this line when the policeman in the foreground turned around - for which much thanks. Fortuna for the photographer. The demonstration was well organised and passed off without incident. On this blog I've talked of of police and authority before, but the particular issue here is the challenge to the legitimacy of "the father". Government representatives (the parents) must be challenged because they are, in the view of a section of the population, mistaken. In psychotherapy terms, we cannot always "please the parents" and must stand up to state our own point of view. The authorities, in turn, try to keep the peace. The police look rather more like soldiers here with boots and shields. The shield is a symbol of the passive or defensive and adds the strength of whatever is depicted on it. The transparent shield though ... I can only speculate that there is nothing to add. Only the man behind it, or perhaps his uniform.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I took some liberties with the original image here. You might be able to make out that these are corks from wine bottles - in fact, from one of these displays in a restaurant where a container is completely filled with all the old, used corks. In symbolism, corks are like bottles in that they are metonymic - it's what was corked that matters, not the cork itself. Yet there is connection there in terms of the sealed container. Something - the quality of the wine perhaps - is preserved. And it's no good sending a message in a bottle without the cork in place. The cork seals the container and preserves the message intact. If air has got to the wine and it becomes oxidised, we refer to the wine as being "corked". Nothing to do withe cork, except it didn't make a proper seal. Corks are often kept after a special occasion. The cork from the champagne bottle that helped launch a ship is often inscribed and retained. If we put a cork on information we try to stop it leaking and that is often referred to in group psychotherapy. The discussions are usually privy to group members and so if discussions occur outside the group, it's regarded as "leaky".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Simply a Sign

What's a sign and what's a symbol? For Jung, a symbol was quite specific. For something to be a symbol, it has to possess some ineffable quality - the Cross would be a good example. Otherwise it's a simple sign or a badge. But is this arrow a symbol? Well an arrow is a very old symbol, but only when it's an actual arrow, rather than a pointer - as above. When an arrow is a pointer, it's simply that. But this arrow was so big I couldn't help getting a photograph. Definitely some sense of direction and movement here in Baggot Street, Dublin 4. But it is simply a sign and not a tool or a weapon. Yet it does look as if it would be a good idea to keep to the right in this case! European folklore depends on the Latin name for an arrow sagitta, deriving from the same root as sagira, which means "to perceive keenly or swiftly" - so mental alertness is the name of the game with the arrow. In that part of Baggot Street you had better be alert. Anything can happen on that strip. As you can see.

Car Wash

Inside the car when it's in the car wash is something I like. It's a bit like being safe indoors when there are high winds or other inclement weather. The machine does its thing and we sit patiently. And what to do with that time? Listening to the radio isn't great because the aerial is folded away. You can read the newspaper - or you can take a photograph. This was the most vivid of the bunch. Cleaning or washing is of course symbolic of purification. You need just enough washing because too much of it can be regarded as disordered. In extreme cases, cleanliness is unlikely to be next to Godliness. The purity of souls is somewhat distant from the cleanliness of the skin - or of your car for that matter. Washing is a means of gaining the attributes of the water itself. Symbolically, water has many powers - stimulation, fecundity - and healing. That may explain the constant cleaning of those with certain kinds of obsessive compulsive disorders. It's not about the cleaning, but about healing some perceived (and unconscious) injury. The soul has been sullied and must be purified. Pilate famously washed his hands to obviate his responsibility - to free himself from guilt. But when we wash our cars it's more like washing an outer shield - the (outer) persona that we display to the world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Price Drop

I just happened to be In Woodie's DIY and I couldn't resist the giant, dramatic lettering of the yellow and black signs. I must say the very helpful Woodie's staff guided me to exactly what I needed to complete my task. Symbolically, any kind of building work can be regarded as making order out of chaos. I am fond of saying that in order to make anything, we first visualise it as complete. That's the phenomenology. We apply a rigorous method to accomplish our designs - great or otherwise. For my task, it was not exactly harmonising raw matter in order to achieve a spiritual outcome - just a replacement of a unit that was probably defective in the first place. Nonetheless, it is now complete whereas before, it was deficient. In psychotherapy, we tend to minimise any talk about fixing problems. Yet there is something of the harmonising. The psychotherapist is not the doctor. Nor is he or she an architect, builder or designer - since the client must do the work. Perhaps both therapist and client are both journeymen and apprentice together, each learning from one another as the process takes place. Yet for the client there is something of harmonising his or her own "raw matter" along the way - putting one's own stuff in order.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Photographers at Work

Now here's a shot of people working art Dundrum Shopping Centre. Even in the days of so many digital instant cameras, there is still a space for portrait photography. I am well pleased. It was easy for me to take this shot from the balcony - but I was casting my mind back to different days. Photography can be fairly stressful because the result is so important to the client. The client is apt to think it's all to do with the photographer, but like psychotherapy, the client also has to work in collaboration to ensure an enduring image. No good scowling or that expression may be in your album - or even on your sideboard - for some time! When the client has gone, there is more work for the photographer to do - pictures selected, images re-touched and attachments to send out. And of course at the end of the day all that clobber must be packed carefully and transported away. I was wondering what has to be packed away when the psychotherapy client finishes the session. I think it's more an "unpacking away". The session may stimulate thoughts and actions, so the session in reality does not stop after 50 minutes. The session keeps going until next week.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Local Customs

This shot from Dun Laoghaire seems to capture the atmosphere of the seafront and harbour. The young man sitting in the small park seemed to set the shot off for me - a figure gives a shot scale and for the most part, I always try to get someone in the shot. This is not so far from where I work in Monkstown, so it's a local shot I guess. The coast road from Monkstown to Dun Laoghaire is interesting enough. You can see the sea until after Longford Terrace and then there are small roads leading to the harbour. For a distance the railway runs alongside the road. Then you are in Dun Laoghaire proper with the Town Hall, ferry port entrance and promenade. If you want to chill out on a sunny day you could do worse than stroll around the sea wall and watch the light glint on the surface of the water. There's a bit of activity and bustle but nothing too strenuous. Watch the Holyhead Ferry come in and go out. Listen to the sounds of outboard motors and seagulls. Then, when you're at the office or at home and you need to de-stress, you have a ready-made template to recall - complete with scenes and sounds.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Green Van

Yes it was the colours that caught my eye, but I waited until the motor launch came in and ... the woman walked in front of it. So that's the shot. To be part of a symbolic structure the ban has to be equivelant to the cart. The cart is in turn is equivelant to the chariot or "little cart". All cultures have strong chariot symbolism - and Zeus is reputed to have driven a chariot with tremendous din. I don't think he would have been interested in getting an NCT test. He liked the din for what it was - the sound of a chariot of thunder. In Vedic tradition, the chariot carries the soul in state of travail - and it carries it for all its time, for the duration of that incarnation. So let us not scoff at the van. The van is a carrier of things, of people and of cargo. This van looks as if it has been adapted to carry people and in all probability it is waiting for the ferry. but that's another symbol for another time. If you dream of a van, then consider whether you are driving or being transported.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Very much of the Pembroke Road, this shot. Eventually all the houses in this Terrace will have been renovated and it will lose that faintly shabby look that I liked. Familiarity is interesting. The things we pass everyday lose the capacity to shock or even arouse our interest. But if you go away for a few years and come back, the chances are that things will have changed. The terraces here used to be occupied by people renting. The poet, Patrick Kavanagh, lived in this terrace at one stage (and apparently he was not that timely in paying his rent). What would Kavanagh make of this current period? He was quite conscious of his environment and, in all likelihood, would not have liked that spurious term, the environment. The term environment moves us uneasily from the part -a fragment of space more or less occupied by objects - to the whole, which is more or less empty. Lefebvre observes that to the question "who's environment?" or "what environment?", there is no pertinent answer forthcoming. In renovation and protection of old buildings we like to raise the notion of historic as if it's somehow natural. There's nothing natural about the city - which is merely composed of buildings, signs, functions and structures.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring has Sprung

Elgin Road just at the beginning of spring - and slightly adjusted for effect. The colour of the brickwork is just a delight - although with the various developments the terrace can look a little tartan at times. Things have progressed a bit since this photo was taken and the trees have more foliage for the birds to make nests. This is the archetypal image of the fruitful mother as opposed to the phallic tree trunk. The fruit of the trees will scatter upon the ground. Not to mention the fruit of the birds which will be dumped on our cars. That's what you have to put up with in Ballsbridge. The trees are nice but the fall out is immense! It does call attention to the rhythm of the seasons though. In order to appreciate life's duration, it's vital to accept rhythms - "systems of instants" as Bachelard calls them. Psychotherapy depends on rhythms. There is a point to weekly sessions, keeping the same time, the same day and so on. To undertake psychotherapy is to form an agreeable rhythm - a succession of noticeable instants in which life and thought can be stable and secure. So when there is fall-out, events find their place located in some deep resonance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stars on a Windy Day

I set out to get a suitable image for Europe Day - now a few days past on the 9th of May. I had forgotten the difficulties involved in photographing a flag on a windy day. A flag always seems to wave out, unfurled, when being casually observed - but try for a shot and it will hang listlessly for long period then wrap itself around the flagpole. And so it was. I eventually got this shot, but not before gathering a small group of amused onlookers. The number of stars is not related to the number of countries in the EU at any particular stage, but is a symbol of completeness (There are 12 disciples, 12 months, 12 symbols of the Zodiac and so on.) Stars are luminous beacons in the night. Sailors used to depend on them - and many still do. Stars sometimes stand in for destiny. Shakespeare's It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves seems appropriate for psychotherapy.


I particularly liked the fact that everyone is wearing something red - even a person on the pavement at the rear. Sandals, jackets, bracelet - many red things. Even though it's not holiday season in Dun Laoghaire yet, the group had a holiday look to it - a bit like the seaside photos I can remember from my youth. A photographer would snap people on the promenade and later you could roll up to his shop and the picture would be displayed in the window. Then naturally you ordered some prints to take home. In these days, not everyone had a camera. No mobile phones either. (It just might be that everyone in this photograph has a mobile phone and most likely it's also a camera.) I was lucky enough to have a Kodak Brownie 127 which I saved up for. My mother had one which had a viewfinder where everything was upside down - an expensive item now! Being out for a stroll, just to walk around, is perhaps something of a lost art. But it's a good way to relieve anxiety. What would it be like to just stroll aimlessly, noticing what you notice?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Arrivals, luggage and freedom

I think it would be true to say that we often dream about travel but seldom do we dream of arrivals. It's missed departures, missing tickets and missed connections that we dream about. Luggage is much reported though - things not packed, cases forgotten and the like. When dreams concern forgetting luggage, dreamers report feelings of helplessness or insecurity. These are often dismissed as anxiety dreams, but it's worth paying a bit of attention to their detail. Massive and bulky luggage can be a sign of illusion - or obligations that we impose upon ourselves. Having no luggage can mean that the dreamer may not have enough to fulfil certain tasks. Of course, it depends on the context - but if you have dream about getting rid of your luggage, then this can be regarded as very good developmental sign. Ridding ourselves of things that are outworn, whether it be possessions, attachments or ideas can give us a feeling of freedom. We once believed these things to be absolutely indispensable - and they are no longer necessary.

Save our Selves

This is a bit of fall-out from the development of the old Jury's Hotel site. Jury's was an institution and a great favourite with the Lansdowne rugby goers. Next door to the hotel (which continues to trade under a new name) is this development victim. By the looks of things it was an an unsuccessful campaign. It's hard to go up against development money although its unclear what's going to happen now. This school has been like this for a while now (and there are many photographs on Flickr) but I hadn't noticed the planning application for a car park. Change is always hard to deal with and as an old tutor of mine once said, "Change means loss." Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, its impossible to resist change. The individual faced with the collective often feels swamped - and the collective can be a blunt instrument (not always for the worse). But the primacy of the individual is something privileged by Jungians. Some individuals come to psychotherapy because they want to change something about their relationship with the outer world. So when the outer world looks fairly uncertain, psychotherapy can help individuals find their own path through turbulent times.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let a hundred flowers bloom

This rock plant is spreading wildly along the Pembroke Road (on the north side) attaching itself to any wall crevice available. I tried to find the source but couldn't exactly say where it started. Not being a serious gardener (although I have a clue), I don't know for sure what this plant is called. Could it be a polemonium boreales? Correct me please, because it is everywhere. Very nice too. The flower is always passive symbolically, like the cup or chalice. But they manifest. At least in the Pembroke Road they do. Flowers are associated with many things - including the Spring, youth, virtue, the dawn and even souls of the dead as in the pipe tune, Flowers of the Forest. There isn't much in Celtic symbolism about flowers though. Perhaps fickleness, as in something constantly evolving. The shades and colours of flowers sometimes correspond to particular states. Here, blue is a bit unreal - is it not? It's kind of unexpected and dramatic in the urban setting. A search for flowers and psychotherapy turned up an article on psychotherapy in China called Letting a Hundred Flowers Bloom. I found it at The term xinli zhiliao corresponds with psychotherapy in the Chinese language. Apparently, psychotherapy in China is developing fairly rapidly now. That is good news. There is much knowledge to share.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Somewhere in the Kitchen

This was a practice shot, taken to test something or other. I really can't remember what. It does remind me of the old 35mm days. It's a "... for goodness sake, use up the roll and get the photos to the processors" type of shot. They often work well and this one was very pleasing. Perhaps it's because we relax about the performance. No need to prove anything. Just be in the moment. I notice there's a sponge in there - could it be Spongebob Squarepants of Bikini Bottom television fame? Many clients find it hard to relax and be in the moment. Anxieties of all sorts take up psychic space. We all have worries of course, but when they frustrate our ability to enjoy ourselves and have fun, they need to be tackled. I can see quite a lot of things going on in the photograph. Just stare at the colours, and see what you can see.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cloudy Weather

The clouds were too looming to miss. Back in the not too distant past, it was easy enough to take a picture of just clouds and print them into another shot with a blank sky. Now we do it digitally with layers. Same thing I suppose, but not so tactile. These are rain clouds because within a short space of time ... it rained. This heavenly activity is naturally associated with fertility. In a range of symbolic meanings, figures often travel on clouds. Helen of Troy was but a cloud herself. Conjured up by Proteus, she caused a war did she not? That was the cloudiness of metamorphosis coming to fulfilment. But being on cloud nine, I never checked out - it's supposed to be good there and I guess that's because nine is the number of celestial spheres. The photo is abstract. I haven't tidied it since that was the shape that appealed. The buildings and canopy frame the clouds, containing them and the chimney points heavenwards to intersect with them. It's one of these what can I see from my seat in the cafe? shots. I could have lost the chink of light on the right hand side, but it was there after all.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I wanted to take a shot in this avenue for a while but it lacked a central subject. The pathway needed people to animate it and this couple obliged me the other day in Herbert Park, Ballsbridge. Being a couple together here, this is definitely about two. It reminds me of the blues singer Lightin' Hopkins who sang about his loved one, "Soon we shall be as two." Of course he must have meant one, but probably it didn't rhyme. In alchemy two elements are joined and become something else and by comparison, two is the motivator in the path of self development and individuation. In psychotherapy we are usually two. One assists the other to both confront and develop the self. But the picture is also about the path. Now "the path less travelled" is something of a cliche in psychotherapy. I prefer to think of it as a flow of energy through networks with branches, nodes, and fissures. In psychotherapy, this network of likely paths is psychologically and socially inhabited by the two.